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Thread: Mulch or compost

  1. #1
    annie8 is offline Sprouter
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    Default Mulch or compost

    Can someone help me understand when you mulch and when you compost? I have leaf mould from last year and the year before. The oldest stuff is looking not bad - less slimy, drier, almost black in colour although still quite rough - certainly not fine. I thought that was mulch but not sure what to use it for. I also have a compost heap where I try to get some decent compost although I struggle to get it turned enough and it certainly never looks like the stuff that Monty has! So if I want to put some compost into my raised in autumn / winter what should I use - compost or mulch? If I donít use mulch for that what should I be doing with it ? Advice appreciated.

  2. #2
    Jimny14 is offline Rooter
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    OK so I think you're a little confused with terminology. It sounds like you have leaf mould and compost to hand and they can be used in numerous ways.
    A mulch is a layer of something (can be lots of stuff including compost, leaf mould, bark chippings etc) which is used to cover an area for some reason (quite often to hold water in).
    If you're trying to build up the level of a raised bed or to improve the soil structure adding compost and leaf mould would help. You could either just spread it over in an even layer in late autumn (as a mulch) and let the worms drag it down which is my preferred method, or dig it in.
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    nickdub is offline Early Fruiter
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    Agree with what's already been said .

    Just to add, composting is a process and a lot of what you can do depends on what materials you have available to you - eg grass-mowings, kitchen waste etc . The one common thing which should be dealt with separately to compost is fallen leaves - they are broken down mostly by fungi, and should be handled in a separate way to other humus rich materials.
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    rary is offline Early Fruiter
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    Generally to get what may be called potting compost, you have to put the contents of a compost heap through a sieve, with what's left, what I do is put it through a coarser sieve and use the sieved material at the bottom of large pots to fill it up a bit, then what's left from that either goes back on to the compost heap or is used as a mulch, to make a seed compost the best material to use is finely sieved leaf mould which does not have a high nutrient content but holds moisture,
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    annie8 is offline Sprouter
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    Thanks so much. That helps a lot. Yesterday I started working through my compost heap separating the most broken down materials into a different container. Will carry on with that today - although it nearly killed me. What I should end up with is a container with well rotted leaf mould and one with decentish compost that I can use for adding to the beds later this or as seed compost if I sieve it. Maybe if I just think of them as being created in different ways but potantially used for similar things?

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    nickdub is offline Early Fruiter
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    I wouldn't worry too much about the language - hands-on work is what gets results. If you can make tons of good compost and get it by whatever means in to your soil, you'll grow wonderful plants - a lot of time, a load of effort and a bit of knowledge will carry the day.
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    Penellype is offline Mature Fruiter
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    The main thing to remember is that compost contains a lot of nutrients, leaf mould does not. Therefore if you add fresh compost to your raised beds you will be adding nutrients and will not need to feed for a while, whereas if you add leaf mould, while it will improve structure and water retention in a similar way to compost, you will need to add nutrients (eg blood fish and bone) or the plants won't grow very well.
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    Compost and leafmould are great because they're first and foremost soil improvers, that can be used as mulches. Other mulches include unrotted leaves, fresh grass clippings, bark chips, gravel, cardboard, even plastic sheeting - they all have their various benefits.
    For mulching unused beds over Winter, I prefer a thick layer of something 'low value' such as leaves or cardboard, rather than something like compost - I feel like that keeps the worst of the wet and freezing weather off my underlying soil. Good soil improvers like you've got there are better off going onto the beds in Spring before you plant them up IMO.
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